If you’re looking to get that distressed, painted a few times Shabby Chic look, here’s a fun and easy way to accomplish it.
Two colors of latex paint. One will be your peek-a-boo, underneath color and the other will be your primary color.
Vaseline, but a light-colored candle will work too.
Water-based polyurethane, if the piece will get wear.
First sand your piece, if necessary, and then put on a few coats of your peek-a-boo color. Mine is called Mudstone.
When your piece is completely dry, apply small amounts of petroleum jelly (or rub the tip of your candle) to the areas you want to look worn. Wood wears at corners and edges and such, so you’ll definitely want to apply some in those areas.
If you want to get the knocked around look of aged furniture, at this point you can take a chain to your piece and beat it up or scratch it with a set of keys.
Now you’ll want to apply a couple coats of your primary color. Mine is white.
When your final application is dry, take a bit of steel wool and rub those areas where you applied the Vaseline. Your top coats of paint won’t stick to those areas and will come off, leaving glimpses of your undercoat and maybe even some raw wood if you rub hard enough.
If the piece will get wear, you’ll want to apply a few coats of water-based poly, sanding between coats for a smooth surface, of course. Note: the greater the contrast between colors means their dissimilarity will be more noticeable, which makes for a great look too.